Accessible Social Media

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Summary: Most social media platforms don’t let you add alt text, but you can and should describe what’s happening in the picture for all of your photo-based posts. Be thoughtful about how you write hyperlinks as well.

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Social media platforms raise some access issues for individuals with disabilities. Although accessibility on social media sites is limited in a lot of ways, some features do exist in each platform. This article gives practical ways you can make your posts more inclusive.

Twitter

Best practices

  • Go into your settings and turn on alternative text for images
  • When you tweet a hyperlink, indicate whether it leads to [AUDIO], [PIC], or [VIDEO]
  • Use a URL shortener (Google or another) to minimize the number of characters in the hyperlink
  • Put mentions and hashtags at the end of your tweets
  • Capitalize the first letter of each word in a hashtag, (which is called camelbacking; the difference between #screenreaderdemo and #ScreenReaderDemo)
  • Avoid using acronyms in your posts.

Twitter and photos

One important feature offered by Twitter is the ability to add alternative text to images in a tweet, but you have to go to your settings to turn the feature on.

Navigate to Settings > Display and sound > Accessibility > and turn on Compose image descriptions. 

You’ll need to turn on the “compose image descriptions” setting in your Twitter account in order to reveal an option to add alt text to images in your tweets.

Now, when you post a picture, you’ll see an option to “Add a description for the visually impaired.” Adding a description is especially important when the picture you tweeted is an image of text, such as a news article excerpt.

When you tag the people in your photos, Twitter generates automatic alt text that lists the people in the picture. To tag someone in a photo, click “Who’s in this photo?” after you choose the image you want to post. You can tag up to 10 people in your picture.

Accessible formatting

If you have a hyperlink in your tweet, indicate what type of resource it leads to by adding [PIC], [VIDEO] or [AUDIO], so screen reader users can anticipate what they will find when they follow the link. 

Twitter automatically alters hyperlinks to be 23 characters in the format of t.co domain in case the URL is long. This is merely a way for Twitter to help reduce your character count when posting a hyperlink. Google and other services have URL shortening services that can reduce the number of characters in your tweet (as screenreaders will read every character). 

Put mentions and hashtags at the end of the tweet to avoid confusion for screen reader users. It can be hard for them to figure out what is being said when there are hashtags and at signs in the middle of sentences. It takes longer for them to figure out what is being said.

This tweet that reads, “Here is a demonstration of how to use a screen reader for people who are not familiar” utilizes best practices for tweeting, including indicating what type of media you’re linking to, a shortened URL, and a camelbacked hashtag.

For hashtags, capitalize the first letter of each word to make sure screen readers know when words start and end. Spell out acronyms and put the acronym in parens. Try listening to your tweet with a text-to-speech app before posting it to see how it sounds. 
You can help your followers who have low vision by making sure your avatar and bio information have adequate color contrast

Easy Chirp is an accessible alternative to Twitter. It has better support for assistive technologies such as screen readers, with a more consistent layout and easier keyboard navigation.

Facebook

Best practices

  • Include descriptive text when you post a photo
  • Add a caption file, or use YouTube’s captioning services for Facebook videos
  • Avoid using acronyms in your posts
  • Like Facebook’s Accessibility page for updates on new accessibility features

Alt text

While you can’t add your own alternative text to pictures you post, Facebook adds machine-generated alt text automatically. This feature gives general information: whether there are cars, trees, water, or people in it. Facebook is even able to tell whether an image is a meme. Although this feature is useful, it doesn’t provide as much context as human-generated alt text.

Descriptive text

Add descriptive text along with pictures that you post to Facebook, rather than just the picture. If you’re clever, the descriptive text you write will both explain and enhance the meaning of the picture.

Video captioning

There are two options for adding captions to videos on Facebook. You can click Edit after uploading a video and add a SubRip Subtitle (SRT) file, which is a video captioning file format.

However, since not everyone knows how to create an SRT file, a better option may be to upload your video to YouTube first and add captions there.

This is a screenshot of what the settings interface looks like when adding a SRT file for captions on a Facebook video.

 

Accessibility updates 

For more information on accessibility features on Facebook and to stay updated with new ones, visit the Accessibility page on Facebook.

Snapchat

Best practices

  • Plan out your snap stories to make sure they would make sense for all users
  • Use the larger text option for captions
  • Make sure there is good contrast between the background and the captions

Snapchat has limited accessibility features, but there are things you can do to promote accessibility in your posts. Make sure your Snap Stories make sense from beginning to end. Storyboard (plan out) your snaps to make sure the story is coherent. 

The only way to make your snap story videos completely accessible is to upload them to YouTube and caption them there. 

All your friends on Snapchat will benefit from snap photos and videos that have good lighting. 

For everyday chats, use the largest possible text size and ensure that the text is legible against your background image. For more information on this, read our color and contrast article. The default text is a smaller white font with a black line behind the text. This smaller text may be hard to read for people with low vision. The larger text option is located in the top right corner of screen after you type out your caption. The button is shaped like a “T” for text. There is also an option to change the color of your text appears in the top right corner of the screen after you type your text. (This option is only available for the larger text format option.)

Instagram

Best practices

  • Use the post description area to add alternative text to images and to caption video posts
  • Use the zoom-in feature to look at photos more closely by “pinching” the image with your fingers on the screen

Descriptive image text

Though there isn’t a way to add alt text to your photos, Instagram has no character limits for the post description area (called a caption on this platform). You should add descriptive text, rather than just to post the photo by itself.

Since Instagram videos are relatively short (up to one minute long), you can use the caption space to include quotes and context for the video. It is also important to note that users can see if a video has sound by clicking on the video. There will be an icon in the bottom left corner signaling this. There will be an “X” if there is no sound in the video or a speaker if there is. There is a new zoom-in feature on mobile devices that allows users to zoom in on photos with their fingers, like you typically would on your phone.

Flickr

Best practices

  • Create descriptive descriptions for your photos.
  • Change the titles of your images to describe what is happening in the image
  • Use spaces between the words in your tags

Accessible formatting

Flickr does not give you the option to include alternative text on your images, so it is important to provide meaningful text-based descriptions to accompany your image posts. Use the “Add description” option. 

Flickr automatically inserts the same title as the photo file itself (e.g., “DSC001.jpg”). Change the title to something more descriptive and human readable (e.g., “my cousin Frieda at San Diego Zoo circa 1991.jpg”.

Google+

Best practices

  • Avoid any acronyms in your posts.
  • Use meaningful captions for your posts to serve as alternative text.

Accessible formatting

Google+ does not offer an alternative text feature, so make sure to include descriptive captions when you post photos. 

One accessible feature Google+ offers natively is the hyperlink preview.

A preview of a hyperlink in a Google+ post displays the URL and pulls the site description and an image from the target website.

Your caption should include some sort of indication to what the hyperlink exactly is by including [PIC], [AUDIO] OR [VIDEO] depending on what it is. Lastly, avoid any acronyms in your posts to accommodate screen reader users.

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